Actor Profile: Barkhad Abdi- An Inspirational Journey
By Nathaniel Simons, The Africa Channel
He gave an incredible performance as the corrupt, yet contemplative lead Somali Pirate in Captain Phillips and now he’s an Oscar nominee. But who is Barkhad Abdi and why should you be inspired by the 28-year old breakout?
Abdi was born in Mogadishu, Somalia where he lived up until the age of seven. At the time, Somalia was undergoing an intense civil war and Barkahd and his family fled to Yemen for safety. In a recent interview with Here & Now, the actor described growing up in the midst of a civil war.
“I have good memories and bad memories of Somalia. You know, I remember the peaceful days, the beautiful Mogadishu. I remember when the war happened — overnight it just turned chaos. Dead people everywhere and gun shots don’t stop,” explained Abdi.
Unable to attend primary school as a result his refugee experience in Yemen, he entered a lottery that allowed him to win a green card to the US at the age of 14. He settled in a Somali community in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he worked a number of odd jobs, included driving a taxi before landing the life-changing role of “Muse” in Captain Phillips.
So how’d it happen? Barkhad was watching a local television channel and saw the casting notice for “Somali pirates.” The rest is in the books. According to reports, director, Paul Greengrass auditioned over 700-800 actors for the role which eventually went to Abdi. In an interview with The Wrap, Greengrass says it was his audition’s “mixture of menace and humanity” that ultimately won Abdi the role, which many critics have regarded as the film’s best performance.
Aside from his Oscar nomination, Abdi was also nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and even took home a BAFTA!
Up next for the actor? He’s currently in talks to star in a historical drama based on South African runner, Willie Mtolo.
Did you see Captain Phillips? What’d you think of Barkhad Abdi’s Performance?